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500-Year-Old Brueghel Painting Discovered in French Family’s TV Room

ArtNews logo ArtNews 3/30/2023 Shanti Escalante-De Mattei
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The People's Lawyer, 1615-17 © Provided by ArtNews Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The People's Lawyer, 1615-17

A 500-year-old painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger was discovered in the TV room of a family’s new home in Northern France after they invited an appraiser in to judge the value of some items in the house. The piece was sold at auction for $850,000 at the Daguerre auction house in Paris, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“I came to a small TV room that was not very well lit. I started doing my estimates in the room and looking behind the door there were two-thirds of the painting visible,” said Malo de Lussac, an appraiser with Daguerre told The Associated Press. “And that’s how I discovered the painting. It was a surprise”.

The painting, The People’s Lawyer, is thought to have been made between 1615 and 1617 and represents one of Brueghel the Younger’s most successful designs. During his lifetime, he made 20 copies of the painting in different formats. The painting depicts villagers lining up to see the lawyer, bearing gifts of eggs and fowl in hopes of getting into his good graces. The painting has also been called The Tax Collector’s Office, as some have interpreted the painting to be a scene in which villagers are paying the yearly tax.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his father Pieter Brueghel the Elder were both important figures of the Flemish Renaissance (1500-1600). Brueghel the Elder was a particularly pioneering figure who created large, bustling scenes depicting peasant life, and unlike his predecessors and contemporaries, didn’t paint portraits or religious themes. Brueghel the Younger took after his father in his depiction of village life, though the Younger also painted religious scenes (some depicting grotesque tableaus of the underworld) as well as some still lifes.

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